SEPTEMBER September delights. With the dog (and cat) days of summer behind us, September opens with cooler air and less humidity, creating a fresh scent and a sense of excitement. The source of this excitement may be for no reason other than it is bearable to be outside once again.
Indeed, September, and throughout the fall, is an ideal time to plan and plant new garden beds to ready oneself for the next year. September is also an ideal time to enjoy what the month has to offer.
Lantana, salvias, helenium, helianthus, ruella, coneflowers, goldenrod, and various native milkweeds, plus the annuals are still going strong, but they are starting to look a little worse for wear unless you have them a haircut around the fourth of July. One of my favorites, Phlox paniculata‘ Shortwood’, introduced by Stephanie Cohen, continues to bloom!
Keep your flowers blooming longer by removing faded blossoms from your cannas, roses, daisies and more. As for the seed plants, such as black-eyed Susans, phlox, and coneflower, leave the flower heads for the birds. Once the birds have picked them through, it’s OK to deadhead.
Deadleaf: I have a love/hate relationship with daylilies. I love the flowers, both for beauty and edibility, but I don’t like the look of the untidy foliage. Some of my taller Rudbeckia spp. need the bottom leaves removed too.
Lawns: I’ve stopped carrying long ago about how my lawn looks. After I switched from fescue to emerald zoysia, I’ve not have as many problems. While I still get some weeks, I no longer have to worrying about it struggling in the heat, getting a circle fungus, or watching it go dormant during the peak of summer. It’s not so much I don’t like the look of a grey lawn of drought induced fescue , it’s watching the Bermuda wire grass thriving! Ugh!
If you are pledged with Poa annua, the annual blue grass, August is the time to put down an organic pre-emergence, like corn gluten, to keep these seeds from germinating next spring. If you have fescue and reseeding in the fall, there is a careful dance you need to perform. You must wait six weeks after putting down the pre-emergnece, or your fescue seeds won’t germinate! But if you put it down too early in August, you will miss the window of stopping the spring germination.
Pruning: You can prune to shape plants if need be, but anytime past August or September is getting too late. New growth will emerge, and the new growth will be affected by the frost and cold weather.
Divide: August is a good time to divide iris. Don’t be afraid of this task; it’s super easy. When iris get crowded, they don’t bloom as well. Below is a good example of a crowded iris patch.
Using a garden fork or shovel, loosen the soil around the outside of the patch. Once loosened, take a hand fork or trowel to lightly left from the edge. They should release from soil with no struggle.
Gently pull clumps apart.
Discard rhizomes with no foliage, damaged, or soft.
Cut back the foliage into a fan shape to keep the iris from having to care for more growth than it needs to.
Replant at the surface of the ground. Lightly cover with soil, keeping the rhizome showing, and water in well.
Roses: Know your roses and when to cut back without fear of cutting next year’s blooms.
With modern roses, such as hybrid teas, floribundas, grandifloras, and miniature roses, you can deadhead without fear of cutting next year’s bloom. However, with many of the Old Garden Roses, such as Gallicas, Albas, Damasks, Centifolias, most species roses, timing is critical. For those once-blooming Old Garden Rosess, they bloom on new wood that’s been hardened over the winter. These are prune when the bloom cycle is complete in the spring. After this spring pruning, leave them alone until they’ve bloomed again the following spring. Of course, you can remove dead or diseased wood at any time.
September is the beginning of best time to plant trees and shrubs. In our area, Ecoregion 231, we can plan up to late winter, as long as the ground isn’t frozen. Wait until the true fall appears; you can feel a change in the air. Plant then and make sure they are watered on a regular basis for the type of plant they are.
Remember, too, September is a great time to plant shop! Common practice in the retail business, and it was learned through us who buy when plants are in bloom, plants that are in bloom are only put out when in bloom. No one will want to buy a goldenrod in spring; but when blooming in the fall, people are drawn to it. So to have a year-round garden, consider shopping in all seasons.
Select and pre-order your spring-blooming bulbs now while supplies are plentiful. Don’t put off today what will be gone tomorrow. The most unusual bulbs sell out fast. I can say this now because I’ve already put my in order. Wink, wink! Try something fun such as the species tulip, Tulipa clusiana.
Harvest vegetables as needed. Most of what’s growing in your vegetable garden are annuals–tomatoes, beans, peppers, etc. By August, they are looking a little wrung out. As plants end their production cycle, remove them from the garden; otherwise, they may attract insects and disease to the plants that are still productive.
August and now is the time to begin starting fall and winter crops such as cilranto, broccoli, lettuce, kale, XXX
The following plants are in fruit now:
Apple — Malus domestica, North Pole Sentinel apple
(Crab)apple — Malus ‘Transcendent’
Fig — Ficus ‘Brown Turkey’ The second crop is a bumper!
Muscadines —Vitis rotundifolia
Paw-paw — Asimina triloba
Pomegranate — Punica granatum ‘Nana’ and
Pomegranate — Punica granatum — Unknown variety, with a medium height.
Strawberries — Fragaria ×
September (and August) is when the cell size of spring fruit strawberry buds is determined. The more favorable the growing conditions your strawberry’s receive now, the bigger the berries will be next year.
Ensure that your strawberries get an inch of water each week. If nature doesn’t provide this, then plan to supplement with water from the spigot, well, or rain harvester.
If you didn’t fertilizer your strawberries in August, do so in September. For plants that were planted this past spring, apply 4 to 6 ounces of ammonium nitrate (33% nitrogen) or 12 to 18 ounces of 10-10-10 per 25 feet of row.
For plants in their second year of growth, increase the application rate to 6 to 8 ounces of ammonium nitrate or 18 to 24 ounces of 10-10-10 per 25 feet of row.
Spread the fertilizer uniformly in a band over the row, about 14 inches wide. Apply when the foliage is dry. Brush fertilizer off the leaves to avoid leaf burn.
In cases where the strawberries aren’t planted in rows, but rather as a garden border, simply estimate the square footage and apply the equivalent amount of fertilizer. My strawberry is 2.5 feet wide by 10 feet long, which is equivalent to 25 feet of row.
In the absence of rain, be sure to keep your birdbaths, butterflybaths, and beebaths filled.
Feeding the hummingbirds
Hummingbirds feeders aren’t necessary if you have enough plants to feed these visitors, but they are a great way to ensure you have a consistent food source for the hummers, and you can place the feeder in a location that is easy to see from your favorite chair, either inside or out.
Making hummingbird nectar
Making sugar-water nectar to fill you feeder is easy to do. Boil 4 parts water with 1 part sugar. As soon as the sugar dissolves, you can reduce the heat. It doesn’t take long; less than a minute. Let sugar water mixture cool, and fill the feeder. Store any remaining nectar in the refrigerator for up to a week. When the temperatures are hot, greater than 86º F, change the nectar water daily.
Hummingbird fun facts here.
Waterwise: With a waterwise design, watering in the absence of rain is a breeze. My garden at home, the Bee Better Teaching Garden, was designed with waterwise principles. I have very little watering to do, and what I do have, is a choice. My boxwood collection is contained. But the watering is smart. These containers are near a watering source, so moving around a hose isn’t a big deal.
The late winter application of mulch is tuckering out by now. Now as the leaves begin to drop either from it being dry or just an early species dropping, leave it on the ground. Unless the is diseased in anyway, these leaves add good mulch protection.
If you find fall webworms in your trees–hickory, walnut, birch, cherry, and crabapple, just leave them be. The two can co-exist.
Oak Worms, Anisota peigleri: Are you walking gingerly down the garden path to avoid stepping the rather large orange/yellow-stripped oak worms? You’re in good company; they are everywhere right now. Or maybe you are trying to avoid the massive quantiles of waste pellets. On a quiet day, the pellets can be heard clattering down through the leaves and hitting the ground below. ewwwww
The Orange/Yellow striped oak worms are just one of 539 caterpillars (according to Doug Tallamy) that use our native oaks as a host plant.
As a moth, we rarely see them around, but the caterpillar stage is highly noticeable because of their ground presence and defoliation of oak trees.
The full grown caterpillars are 1 ½ to 2 inches long, black in color with orange/yellow stripes.
My friend Josh Zach, Reporter, News Radio 680 WPTF & North Carolina News Network, asked me about his Oak Worms.
As I explained to him what the pest was, the moths in the summer are also soft-bodied insects for the birds to feed their brood. A healthy tree can re-foliate after some feeding. If the waste is in undesired amounts, such as on pools, patios, and decks, you may want to treat, but I wouldn’t recommend it. These are a valuable food source!
Fertilizers: The leaves will begin to fall soon. Save them for natural areas. I blow mine into the areas that I mulch. The mulching mower blade cuts them up too. I use all the leaves that fall in the Bee Better Teaching Garden; plus I pick up from the neighbors. One neighbor in particular has a yard man who rakes and bags weekly. I all over this source. These go to the chicken run. Lots of good bugs and chrysalis in these leaves.
Weeds: There never seems to be one weed, they come in multiples, and like to hang in gangs. There’s the sedges, the spurges, the grasses, and the oxalis. Sounds like a de-funked rock band! There are too just many to mention, and still hope for a happy day.
Stay ahead of your weeds. if you have a problem with poa annua, annual blue grass, as I do in my Raleigh garden, now (early September) is the time to use an organic pre-emergent such as corn gluten.
Remember there are some beneficial weeds for the wildlife.
The flowers are still blooming, especially the zinnias! Just a few in a vase is all that is needed to brighten up the kitchen table!